Well, we’ve made it. We are at the end. This is the last post in my series about the ten greatest video games of all time. Here, you will discover the absolute pinnacle of video game development. The very best video game that has ever been made. This game is…. Fallout 3.
Surprised? I thought you might be. I’ve noticed that pretty much every game in my top 10, aside from Half-Life 2, was made by either Nintendo or Square. So it seems logical that my favorite game of all time would be made by Nintendo or Square. And yet, Fallout 3 is the game that blows past all of the competition to take the lead as the best video game ever made.
Now, Fallout 3 is by no means the perfect video game. It has some flaws, some pretty major flaws in fact. And yet, when you’re actually playing the game, none of these flaws matter. It is an utterly engrossing experience that simply has no equal among any of the video games that I have ever played.
I should probably do some stage-setting. First, a little history. The Fallout series began in 1997, with the release of the original Fallout for PC. A sequel, Fallout 2, quickly followed in 1998. Both of these games were highly critically acclaimed, but unfortunately they did not sell all that well. This led to tensions between the developer, Black Isle Studios, and the publisher, Interplay. Ultimately this meant that Van Buren, a project that was meant to become Fallout 3, was cancelled. The Fallout franchise thus languished for several years until it was obtained by Bethesda Softworks, a video game publisher/developer best known for the epic PC RPG franchise The Elder Scrolls. (Small side note: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, narrowly missed out on being included on this list.)
When Bethesda announced that they were working on Fallout 3, there was a lot of concern that it wouldn’t capture the spirit of the first two games. Especially after the game was shown off, a lot of people feared that Fallout 3 would simply be The Elder Scrolls with guns. Fortunately, the developers at Bethesda were determined to make their game as much a proper sequel to the first two games as possible.
Fallout 3 takes place in an alternate reality where American culture didn’t change after about 1950 or so, but technology advanced much more rapidly than in real life. Basically, the Fallout world takes place in the future that people in the 1950s envisioned, only with a twist. The twist being that in 2077, a nuclear war took place between China and the United States that basically destroyed human civilization. Fallout 3 takes place in the year 2277, in a place called the Capital Wasteland, which used to be called Washington, D.C.
You begin the game by naming your character and choosing his or her look. Your character begins his or her life in Vault 101, an underground haven that people went to in order to survive when the bombs started dropping 200 years earlier. Supposedly, no one has ever left or entered Vault 101 since the nuclear war, so when your character’s father mysteriously disappears from the vault, all hell breaks loose. Your character is soon forced to leave the Vault as well in order to track down his or her father, and so the adventure begins.
The great thing about Fallout 3 (and presumably the first two Fallout games) is that you have near-complete freedom to play the game however you want. Do you want to be an angel of mercy and a hero to the whole Wasteland? You got it. Do you want to be a horrible villain who obliterates all enemies and rules over the Wasteland with an iron fist? Go for it. Would you rather remain aloof from the petty struggles of the various factions in the Wasteland and let them fight it out amongst themselves? Well, you can do that too. Every choice you make has a consequence, and will push you one way or the other along the path to good or evil.
Here’s an example of the drastically different paths that one decision can send you on in this game. More than likely, the first place you will come to after you leave Vault 101 is the town of Megaton. Megaton is so named because it is built in a crater formed by the impact of an unexploded nuclear bomb. 200 years later, the bomb is still there, and it is still live, and so the town lives under the constant strain of knowing that a nuclear explosion could annihilate them all at any moment.
You have three options here. You could ignore it and go on your way. You could disarm it and be lavishly rewarded by the grateful inhabitants of Megaton. Or you could rig it to blow, and wipe Megaton off the map. Why would you want to do this? Well, there’s a crazy Englishman named Alistair Tenpenny who rules over a hoity-toity community called Tenpenny Tower, and he has decided that Megaton is a nasty blight on the beautiful landscape of the Capital Wasteland, so it needs to be destroyed. One of Tenpenny’s agents approaches you, and offers to reward you richly if you will rig the nuclear bomb to blow up.
You could also just blow up the bomb for the heck of it, if you want. Being a sadistic jerk is always an option in this game.
It’s the freedom of choice, the fact that your choices have serious consequences, and the sheer vastness of scale and scope that make this game so great. Like I said, it’s not perfect. Character animation is stiff and awkward. There are a large number of bugs and glitches. But these things ultimately don’t matter, because the total package is just so masterful.
When it comes down to it, Fallout 3 is my favorite game of all time, because if I could only play one game for the rest of my life, it would be this one. There’s just so much to do in this game that I’m not sure I would ever get bored.
And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed reading about the 10 greatest video games of all time as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Next week’s topic is a mystery!